Apocalypse How

Z for Zachariah gives us excellent performances, just ignore some of the post-apocalyptic practices

Three people and a couple of good dogs try to figure things out in a post-apocalyptic world during Z for Zachariah, a strong acting exercise for Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine.

Ann (Robbie) has been living a solitary life after a nuclear war has wiped out the world's population. She still lives on her father's land, a place mysteriously immune from radiation clouds. With her trusty dogs by her side, she tills the land, hunts for game, and longs for company.

That company comes in the form of Loomis (Ejiofor), who she rescues after he takes a dip in a radioactive pond. After scrubbing him down and nursing him back to health, the two form a bond with romantic inclinations. Is their budding relationship something that would've happened under normal circumstances, or just a product of their being the only two people left alive in America?

The two actually seem to make a decent pair. As the slightly jumpy Loomis slowly recovers, he helps Ann get her tractor started by figuring out how to get gas out of electric pumps manually. He likes the way she cooks fish. She likes the way he provides company other than canine. They'll probably get fake married and repopulate the Earth, right?

That question is pushed to the forefront when Captain Kirk himself shows up all scruffy looking and puppy-like. His name is Caleb (Pine), and he's exactly what most God-fearing farm girls left alone for a long time would like to have show up at their doorstep. He's gorgeous and he says grace before a meal. He escaped from a mine after the bombs went off, and may or may not have killed a few as a means of survival. Loomis sees him as a threat, and starts to get a little jealous.

Make that very jealous. His battle with the green-eyed monster doesn't mix well with his paranoia that Ann will eschew him because Caleb is white and he is black. It's also not helping matters much that he wants to tear down the church Ann's dad built for wood to make a watermill. His need to provide electricity for the winter is creating a little friction.

There's some male bonding during a turkey hunt and the deconstruction of the church, but it becomes increasingly clear that the farmhouse isn't big enough for Captain Kirk and the guy from 12 Years a Slave. It's only a question of who will blink, or shoot, first.

Surely, the movie suffers a bit on the logic side. The characters walk around with no radiation suits or protection on their farm, but get all geared up when they are a mere few hundred yards away in town. It's a movie acted so well that you forgive the silliness and inconsistencies.

Robbie, who has given some wow performances in the recent past with The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus provides a sweet, grounded center for the movie. She makes a rather unlikely person seem altogether convincing in this movie.

Pine, who showed off his comic side in the summer's Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is great as the mysterious drifter who seems awfully nice but just might kill you for your girlfriend. Ejiofor gives Loomis a nice twitchiness. His is the film's most memorable performance, presenting a good guy who perhaps has had a few brain cells fried by radiation. He's just not all there.

The film plays like a darker, quieter version of Will Forte's new show, The Last Man on Earth, although it's almost completely void of humor. It's like that show, with a little bit of the dour Viggo Mortensen film The Road mixed in.

See it for the excellent performances, but make sure to ignore some of the post apocalyptic practices in the film. If you should survive a nuclear apocalypse, wear your radiation suit outdoors for something like 10,000 years after the mushroom clouds before traipsing around in your bathing suit. Err on the side of caution when it comes to nuclear-bombed territory behavior.

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